Newsletter April 2009

Dear Friends,

 

Welcome to the Muslim-Christian marriage group newsletter. 

A trip to Paris for our anniversary stopped me getting the March newsletter out before the end of the month- I hope you’ll find the March-April newsletter worth the wait!

 

In your words :

 

Amy and Takbir, who are both writers, came to the Southall couples’ meeting at the de Nobili interfaith centre in March. Many thanks Amy for this ..

 

 “ I’m not just used to hearing Takbir talk about the drama that can come with an inter-faith relationship, I’m used to seeing it, in one of his plays – so talking about it is relatively easy for me.

Going to the Muslim-Christian couples group in Southall was something we both wanted to do, mainly because since we got engaged we’ve struggled to find an Imam who will join us together, without requiring me to make a commit to a religion that isn’t my own.

What neither of us expected was how much we’d get out of talking to people about their experiences, hearing about how they cope with marriage, kids and the in-laws.  That actually it’s just part of life in multi-cultural Britain, and that any wedding whether mixed or not is full of drama.

What we came to realise during lots of cups of tea, good company and delicious samosas in that cosy house in Southall, is that even though finding an Imam is important to us, it isn’t the answer, it won’t magically solve everything.  A ceremony can’t change that; the difference will still be there. What’s important is that we talk to each other, we give each other space to deal with things, and we remember that those differences are part of the reason we fell in love with each in the first place, they aren’t something that needs to be fixed.  So, whether we find the right Imam or not, what’s important is we are building the life together we want, and what we want more than anything is to be married, because as long as we stick together we can deal with whatever comes our way.”

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Jan has joined us online recently. She lives in Indiana, USA.  Like many of us she and her partner have been thinking about the role of belief in their relationship and she would love to hear answers to these questions arising out of her experience. We’re posting Jan’s questions on the interfaith marriage board. If you would like to contribute any thoughts they bring to mind for you from your perspective maybe we can stimulate some dialogue there on issues central to our lives.  

Jan asks:

  • What do you believe about God? Is God categorized more by love or punishment? What is God’s function: to condemn, to spread love, to punish sinners, etc?(I ask this because it might give both of us an understanding about what role we see God playing in our lives and how we might respond when we or our partner has glitches in their faith).

  • What does God command us to do: How can we share and witness without trying to convert, or are we suppose to convert? (I have known some Muslims and some Christians who have tried to convert their partners. Some of their partners were Jewish, Hindu or unbelieving).

 

  • What role does God play in your life? How often do you pray? What symbols of God do you have around your house? How many programs do you listen to that are about God? How much of your time, money and thoughts are given to spiritual things? (The reality might very well be  that the couple has not lived together before the marriage. In my spare time [alone time] I listen to lots of Christian music. We have decided that I will acknowledge the volume control on my music and listen in my office mostly.  I wear a cross sometimes and that does not bother him. I have a guide dog. My guide dog will not go in a certain part of the house, so that it will be clean for him to enter and pray).

  •  In your everyday life  how many of your friends are of the same faith? Would you welcome close friends of another faith? (It seems that friends keep you connected to other parts of your lives. I admit that most of my Christian friends are quite conservative. Thus, they would not make him feel comfortable. But, I have many other interests and these friends don’t talk about religion. thus, I can socialize with him and my friends and we can share our interests together. This helps in not having a splintered lifestyle).

  • Do you pray? How? When? What are the parameters of prayer? Is that the only way to pray? Would you be open to other ways of praying? What are compromises that you are willing to make? What won’t you compromise on? (since I believe that we need to pray in Jesus name, I will do this, but I know that he does not and will not).

  • What celebrations are important to you? Describe them in detail. Do they contradict or negate your partner’s celebrations?
  • How has God shaped your beliefs about marriage? Specifically, what do you believe that God tells you about Marriage? Do you believe that he says that interfaith marriages are wrong? (I asked this question because I read on the board of many stories where one partner had not come to terms with their relationship. I wondered if they were struggling between their family and their partner or if the struggle was an inner struggle between their beliefs and their desires). (that also gave us an opportunity to talk about raising children. If interfaith relationships are not wrong, then, it would be ok for their children, Right?). (I was in an interracial relationship for quite some time. I was amazed about how many men and women saw themselves as the “exception.” They would say, “it’s not wrong for me, but I wouldn’t want my daughter/son to intermarry.”)

  • What roles has he ascribed for marriage partners?  
  • When is it ok to divorce? (This is probably not an “interfaith” question. But, it is good to talk about). 
  • What does God expect of you as a person, marriage partner and member of a faith community? (I knew a Christian woman who felt slighted because her Muslim mate [not together anymore] had to pray five times a day. she did not realize that God expected this out of him and she felt a loss of attention).
  • What do you believe that God expects of your marriage partner? Does this parallel their views of what God expects? 
  • How does your Holy Book instruct you to raise children?
  • Name some things that are abominable in a marriage.
  • How does God tell us to handle our struggles and/or those things that we find unacceptable?  
  • How much of your partner’s Holy book do you know? Is it important for one partner to read the Holy book of the other partner to get a better understanding of what they do and do not believe?

 

  • Name three compromises that you have made that are related to faith.  Name three that your mate has made. (I am just looking for specifics to get an idea of how things were handled. Many articles say  “compromise” but they are not specific) .

 

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News of the group:

Apart from the attendees of the meeting in Southall  more than twenty people in muslim-christian partnerships have got in touch with us directly in the last month, many of you wanting specific information about marriage ceremonies, several hoping to make contact with people ‘in a similar combination’ and  others wanting support and ‘a listening ear’ about issues major and minor to do with family, children or relationship.  Rosalind and I make sure we answer everyone who comes to us through the  interfaith or muslim-christian marriage sites and we try to point you in the right direction for appropriate support if that is what you need. We’re very grateful to people in the group who have skills they can offer or who are willing to share information or experience from their own lives, because so often what makes the difference for couples and individuals is knowing that they are not alone, and hearing about other more positive approaches to issues that had seemed intractable. So many thanks to all those people who have been helping in all kinds of ways, people like John, Tima, Sarah, Shabbir, Shereen, Martin and our other friends and supporters: you are stars! 

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Requests for interviews:

“I am a freelance journalist and I am looking to write a feature about mixed-faith marriages for She magazine. I wonder if you knew of a mixed-faith couple who might like to be interviewed? They will probably need to be photographed although the interview can take place via the telephone.”
Nicolette Loizou [n_loizou@hotmail.com]

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“My name is Katherine and I’m a freelance writer. I’m writing a feature for Cosmopolitan magazine in Australia about women who convert religion for love.

I’ve spoken to some women who have done this, but I’m also looking to speak to women (ideally in their twenties) who live happily in an inter-faith marriage.

If you’d be happy to have a chat, please email me at katherine126@hotmail.com and I can send some quick questions over to you.”

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Coming up:

 If you want to know about events in your area in the UK a good place to find out about local interfaith is The  Interfaith Network’s list of organizations http://www.interfaith.org.uk/local/directoryfulllist.htm

The (Christian) Presence and Engagement Network  www.presenceandengagement.org.uk  has links and local resources (including masajid directory) for areas of Britain of high faith diversity like Leicester, Bradford, London Birmingham: check it out for events and organizations in your area.   

These are just some of the events we’ve been informed about :

From Thurs 16 April to Monday 21st April An-Nisa society and the Radical Middle Way are hosting a number of free events in London, Manchester  Rochdale and Bradford  with Shaykha  Halima Krausen, including  “Shaykha Unplugged: No question is too difficult. No topic taboo. – a unique opportunity to questions and discuss Islamic issues with one of Europe’s most prominent Muslim women scholars. We often complain that scholars don’t answer the questions posed to them. With wit, honesty, insight and common sense, Shaykha Halima will do her very best!”
for dates, venues, topics and more see
www.radicalmiddleway.co.uk

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Friday 17th April 6.45pm – 8.30pm, Abrar House,45 Crawford Place,LondonW1H 4LP

Ali A. Allawi, former Defence Minister and Minister of Finance in Post-War Iraq  a talk hosted by the City Circle on the topic of his new book The Crisis of Islamic Civilization for more info and other City Circle events see

 http://www.thecitycircle.com/futureevents.php 

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St Ethelburgas:  Thurs 30 April 10am-4.30pm New approaches to interfaith leadership.  A day exploring the characteristics and skills needed by those active in bringing faith communities together in the 21st century.

Conversations for the Soul – this unusual project is an opportunity to get to know someone of a different faith more deeply through tandem dialogue.

Thurs 16 April 6.30pm: Making our case to God – a recitation and exploration of the poetry of Iqbal, its relevance to Muslim communities today, and its powerful call to agency and action.  Hosted by Radical Middle Way.  More info:  iram@radicalmiddleway.co.uk.  No need to book – just come.

Fri 24 April 7pm:  Books of Light – an open floor story-sharing evening focusing on stories from the faith traditions, kicked off by Jumana Moon telling stories from the Qu’ran.

More info from www.stethelburgas.org

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Wed 22nd April   2.30- 4.30pm Heythrop College, University of London, Kensington Square, London W8 5HQ.

Christianity and Islam: can they co-exist?

Revd Dr Fadi Daou, Université de Saint-Joseph, Lebanon

This lecture is open to all. There is no charge for admission and no need to register.

Dr Daou is director of the Higher Institute of Religious Sciences at the Universite de St Joseph, administrator of Muslim-Christian dialogue for the Middle East for the Maronite Patriarchal Synod and serves as a parish priest in Jbeil. .

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Sun 26 April 3 – 5 p.m London Interfaith Centre.

 Revd Dr Alan Le Grys, University of Kent : Religion and Identity “Have we gone from placing too little weight on the religious part of identity, to placing too much? Come and explore these issues with Alan Le Grys in an overview of the current British religious and ideological landscape”. no charge.  For further information, info@londoninterfaith.org.uk or 020 7604 3053

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The Centre for Muslim-Christian studies in Oxford, holds weekly seminars on Wednesday afternoons including on Wed 6th May Bishop Kenneth Cragg, on seventy years study of Islam. http://www.cmcsoxford.org.uk/seminars.html  

Christian Muslim Forum :

(I declare an interest here as I’ve recently joined the forum as a family specialist!  Watch this space for activities of particular interest to M/C families).

 

Monday 8th June 11-2.30 “Cross Crescent and Cool’

At the Youth encounter centre Moseley Birmingham a training day looking at why and how Christian and Muslims should help build bridges between young people of the two faiths.
http://www.christianmuslimforum.org/downloads/Cross%20Crescent%20and%20Cool.pdf

 

An item from the CMForum in the context of Holy week

Muslims and Christians Pray Together on Good Friday

At 1.15 pm on Good Friday 10 April 2009 Muslims from the Bobbers Mill Community Centre  and Christians from Churches Together in Hyson Green, Forest Fields and New Basford will share prayers together as they have done every year for the last seven years.

These will take place in Berridge Road West, Hyson Green, Nottingham on the pavement outside the mosque and will last approx. 5 mins.  As in previous years the two faith communities will warmly greet each other and then they will in moments of silence remember before God different suffering people of the world.

Dr. Musharraf Hussain OBE, the Imam of the mosque and Chair of the National Christian / Muslim Forum who has been involved in the prayers since 2002 says this ‘Muslims believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and the word of God.  For Muslims ‘Good Friday’ is a time of peace and serenity as it marked the return of Christ to his Lord.  It is an opportunity for Muslims and Christians to show solidarity and friendship.’                                                                                   

Rev Graham Burton who used to live and work in Pakistan before coming to St. Stephens with St Paul  Hyson Green where he has served in different capacities since 1992, makes this observation.  ‘The popular perception is that Muslims and Christians are deeply antagonistic towards each other.  Yet despite our different beliefs about what actually happened on Good Friday and what it means, we can as people created by one God demonstrate solidarity and concern for the suffering of the world’

This is not the only joint activity.  Under the umbrella of an organisation called ‘Faiths in Action’ started in 2003 by way of seminars and public meetings common concerns are shared and actions taken.

For more information:

http://www.christianmuslimforum.org.uk/subpage.asp?id=338&mainid=20&

 

 

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for our French-speaking members:

 

The annual meeting of the foyers couples islamo-chretiennes in France will take place this year on the 1-3 May  (La rencontre annuelle de la Pentecôte qui réunit des familles de toute la France à Bonnelles (78) est remplacée par le WE du 1, 2, 3 mai à La Clarté-Dieu, chez les franciscains d’Orsay (91).  Renseignements www.gfic.net

 

From the French: Lebanon announces a joint  islamo-christian national public holiday. Announced by the Prime Minister Fuad Seniora the 25th of March is now an official holiday in honour of the Virgin Mary, uniting Lebanese of all faiths. The occasion will be a national holiday, related but distinct from the Christian feast of the Annunciation, and recognizes the importance of the Virgin Mary in both Christian and Muslim traditions.  Agreed on unanimously by Lebanon’s Council of Ministers, it’s taken three years for this initiative to be realized, through the work of prominent Lebanese Muslims and Christians. A ceremony called ‘together around our Lady Mary’ took place at the Chapel of the College Notre Dame  in Jamhour and included prayer and du’a from prominent figures of both faith groups. Next year muslim-christian events for the occasion are planned in Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Poland, Italy and France. More at http://www.gric.asso.fr

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Some news from the US

On march 2nd  the Gallup centre for Muslim studies published it’s first ever fully random representative study of Muslim Americans, derived from more than 300,000 national household surveys. Muslim Americans: A National Portrait snapshot of a diverse community revealing a uniquely American story of ethnic and political diversity, upward mobility, and entrepreneurship… For more info go to ….http://www.muslimwestfacts.com/mwf/116074/Muslim-Americans-National-Portrait.aspx

Coming soon:  

 Jun 17, 9am-5pm: Global Leadership Forum 2009: ‘Evangelicals and Muslims’ GLF 2009 will feature an honest conversation between Muslims and Evangelicals about their deepest differences as well as shared values and concerns. The forum seeks to equip participants with a practical perspective for understanding those of another faith. It will feature three conversations, organized thematically around the concepts of respect, reconciliation and religious freedom. The first panel will examine the sources for mutual understanding and respect in each tradition. The second features an examination of the term ‘reconciliation,’ both on the deep theological, cultural and political differences between the two great traditions, and on the common points of agreement which could become the beginning of a larger reconciling process. The third conversation will be a frank discussion of religious freedom. What happens in Muslim countries if a Muslim converts to Christianity, and alternatively how have Muslims perceived and experienced Christian missionaries in Muslim countries? How are Muslims treated in Christian majority countries, especially related to the construction of new mosques? In the end, we hope that the day will assist participants to better understand the issues that divide–and connect these two great traditions—and will enable pastors and imams to bring back new insights to their congregations.

 This event is sponsored by: The Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, Georgetown University and The Duncan Black MacDonald enter for the Study of Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations, Hartford Seminary. Georgetown University ,Washington, D.C.

to read more or book for the program go to: http://cmcu.georgetown.edu/events

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Stop press items: 

Private Arrangements“Recognizing sharia” in England John R. Bowen.  A comprehensive and thoughtful survey of the issues and prctice of shari’a in relation to marriage in UK http://bostonreview.net/BR34.2/bowen.php

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the mixtogether message board are running a campaign to get a show for and about mixed couples on the BBC Asian network, and thereby raise our profile in the Asian community . If you’d like to support their campaign go to . http://www.mixtogether.org

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http://www.interact-uk.org.uk/  interfaith action magazine for students – includes an interfaith nikah experience 

and

A Date for your diaries:  Inter Faith Week 15-21 November 2009 http://www.interfaithweek.org/index.htm

Anyone interested in helping organise an interfaith families event?

 

wishing a happy Easter and a happy holiday to all, 

Hayyakum Allah,  

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